"Govt of the mafia, for the mafia": Nana Patole
Opposition leaders call for the dismissal of the Shinde-led MVA govt in the wake of multiple, very public shootouts
Barely a week after a BJP legislator fired gunshots at his rival inside a police station, the murder of Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Abhishek Ghosalkar broadcast live on Thursday, 8 February, has sent shockwaves through the state's political circles—and indeed, the whole nation.
With both general elections and assembly polls set to take place within a few months, both law and order as well as political 'discourse'—if it can even be called that any longer—seem to leave much wanting.
The opposition in Maharashtra, led by the Shiv Sena (UBT), was quick to slam the Eknath Shinde state government, going as far as to demand its dismissal, citing a breakdown in law and order. They also called for the immediate resignation of BJP strongman Devendra Fadnavis, the state's home minister as well as deputy chief minister.
The Thursday killing took place in Mumbai’s western suburbs of Borivali, where Ghosalkar was wrapping up his Facebook Live session with political activist Mauris Noronha, who then proceeded to shoot him thrice before shooting himself.
Ghosalkar, the son of former Shiv Sena legislator Vinod Ghosalkar, was one of the party's top leaders—and known for his strongarm tactics in the Borivali–Dahisar belt. He is also a close confidant of Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray.
Former Shiv Sena (UBT) minister and Uddhav's son Aaditya Thackeray took the government to task over it: “A government of goons is ruling Maharashtra. There is total collapse of law and order in the state. First a firing took place in Kalyan and now it is taking place in Mumbai.”
He was seconded by Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Sanjay Raut, who circulated photographs of Noronha meeting chief minister Eknath Shinde on social media.
“This unconstitutional state government has made a total mess of the law and order situation in the state," said Raut. "Incidents of robbery and murders have become routine. Its time to dismiss this government and impose presidential rule in Maharashtra,” he demanded Raut.
Previously Raut had circulated photographs of other well-known Pune-based goons interacting with Eknath Shinde as well.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole stated that such incidents are only increasing by the day and it is clear that the goons are having a field day.
“The mafia is having easy access to the chief minister’s residence and mantralaya," Patole said. "We have already witnessed shoot outs in Jalgaon and Yavatmal after the Kalyan shootout. The police department is becoming helpless (before) the patronage given to the mafia by the current rulers.”
“The home minister is not taking his job seriously, and in such a situation, it is imperative to dismiss this government,” Patole added.
Similar was the demand of the Sharad Pawar-led NCP faction, who also wanted Fadnavis to be shown the door.
Fadnavis sought to defend himself saying the whole incident occurred due to personal rivalry and accused his opponents of trying to give it a political colour.
“The death of former corporator Abhishek Ghosalkar is unfortunate," the deputy chief minister said. "I would like to appeal to everybody not to politicise the incident. It is not correct.”
Both Ghosalkar and Noronha were seen together in banners even in 2024, he pointed out. "The incident took place due to personal rivalry and to equate it to a breakdown in law and order in Maharashtra is far-fetched,” he added.
Fadnavis also said that opposition would demand his resignation even if a dog came under a car—which remark naturally did not go down well either.
The Shiv Sena faction led by Eknath Shinde dismissed claims of deteriorating law and order in the state, and scapegoated intra-party rivalries inside: “It was Saamna (the Sena mouthpiece) which gave publicity to Norohna and helped him to establish his place in Borivali,” said Maharashtra Industries Minister Uday Samant, indicating that Norohna was being pitted against the Ghosalkars by the party itself.
Both Abhishek Ghosalkar and his wife Tejaswee were former corporators and had considerable influence in this area.
As for the 2 February incident—where Kalyan East BJP MLA Ganpat Gaikwad allegedly opened fire at local Shiv Sena leader Mahesh Gaikwad and one more person inside the Hill Line police station in Ulhasnagar, Thane—there was a land dispute in play, besides a political rivalry.
There, at least, the accused is currently in jail, and the victim is stable and recovering in hospital.
Well-known political analyst Hemant Desai says that such incidents will only increase in the coming days: “In the past, only the united Shiv Sena used to adopt violent means; but now virtually every political party resorts to strongarm tactics. Politicians have developed a nexus with the mafia and underworld, and the outcome is here for all to see.”
“In addition, the stakes are very high due to the upcoming polls," Desai adds, "and hence political parties are resorting to all tactics to win.”
Mumbai has been witness to several high-profile murders in the past too, of course.
On 5 June 1970, Shiv Sena activists murdered Communist Party legislator Krishna Desai. This murder established the Sena as a militant outfit and positioned its chief Bal Thackeray as a virtual don in Mumbai, who could shut down all of Mumbai with one phone call.
The result was that in the by-elections that followed, the Shiv Sena debut in Maharashtra politics sent Wamanrao Mahadik to the Assembly. The Communist Party declined and has yet to recover.
Another high profile murder was that of underworld don Guru Satam on 23 March 1992. He was gunned down by Parel Sena legislator Vithal Chavan.
In a similar incident on 25 August 1995, BJP Bandra legislator Ramdas Nayak was shot down by Feroze Kokani, a shooter in the notorious Dawood Ibrahim's gang.